We are excited to be teaming up with and hosting RareSweets this Friday, August 8 at our Blagden Alley Café in Washington, D.C. for an Affogato Pop-Up, from 1pm to 5pm (or until supplies last). The D.C.-based bakeshop and desert company, which will be opening its storefront this fall in Center City, was founded by Pastry Chef Meredith Tomason, and aims to create seasonally inspired cakes, ice creams, and confections, featuring American heirloom recipes reimagined for a modern palate, while also using as many local ingredients as possible. If you are unfamiliar with affogato, it’s an Italian specialty, where you’ll find our version with a scoop of RareSweets’ delectable ice cream, available in milk chocolate cacao nib, crème fraiche and dark caramel, topped with La Colombe espresso shots, for $3 each. YUM – it will definitely be a great way to cool down and enjoy a beautiful summer Friday afternoon! And please check out our recent interview with Chef Tomason below to learn more about and what to expect from RareSweets.
La Colombe: What inspired you to start RareSweets?
Meredith Tomason: It was a career changer, and I knew walking in to pastry school that my end goal through all of my pastry studies and work would be to own my own bakery. RareSweets is a bakery that is based in American baking traditions. The traditions passed to me from my grandmother are what’s at the heart of what we do. I am honoring her memory through our cakes and ice creams, while also bringing back many other forgotten American recipes that I am sure many other grandmothers shared with their families.
LC: Where did you study and/or work before you embarked on this project?
MT: I had a whole other career path before I got into pastry. I went to college and graduate school for dramatic writing, and switched careers in 2008. That year, I graduated from the French Culinary Institutes’ Professional Pastry Program. (The school is now called The International Culinary Center.) I then worked at various bakeries in NYC, including Magnolia Bakery and Tribeca Treats, and also gained a lot of experience working at Craft Restaurant.
LC: What are your favorite items to make? What are your favorite sweets to eat?
MT: They are one and the same. Coconut Cake. Done and done.
LC: When and where did you first discover affogato?
MT: This may sound like a made for TV movie, so forgive me, but I became obsessed with them during a college semester abroad that I did in Florence, Italy. Thank goodness I did a lot of walking in that city, because I certainly did a ton of eating and drinking. How could I not?
LC: Pop-ups seem to be a hot thing lately. Why do you think so, and what inspired you to decide to do your own?
MT: Pop-ups can be a win-win for everyone from the business owner to the customer. I think they are popular because they allow small businesses to get their product to market in a short burst of time. It’s a great way to test new ideas, gain valuable feedback, and speak to people who may become potential customers down the line. I think they are a smart way for businesses to get their name out there and see if people are interested in their products before they make a big decision on taking out a loan or signing a lease etc. Other businesses use pop-ups to get people excited about a store opening or a yet-to-be-released product. We fall into this category, as we are using our Affogato Pop-Up to get people excited about our ice creams.
LC: How have your previous pop-up events gone?
MT: They have gone quite well. I think it’s important to know who your main customer base will be for the specific pop-up, so as to make sure they leave with smiles on their faces and good food in their bellies.
LC: What do you find most challenging about doing a pop-up event?
MT: Figuring out the right timing is important for a pop-up. Deciding where it will be held, what time of day, day of the week etc. These are all important factors to consider when thinking about doing a pop-up. Also, you really need to find a venue that will fit your pop-up model. Are you selling packaged goods? Need a space to cook? Not all pop-ups can be done just anywhere, so it’s important to get your logistics in place to make sure the event flows smoothly and your customers are happy.
LC: What do you find most rewarding about doing one?
MT: I love talking to my customers and sharing our story and the love and pride that goes into our food. It really makes me smile to see people get excited by their first taste of our treats.
LC: How did you first learn about and get connected with La Colombe?
MT: I had been familiar with La Colombe coffee from my time in New York, and had frequented the cafes there, and also had their coffee in restaurants. I reached out a while ago in hopes to carry their coffee at our bake shop, and that connection eventually lead to our products being carried in their DC cafe as well.
LC: Do you plan on using any particular La Colombe coffees in your recipes when your store opens in the fall? If so, how will they be used?
MT: I plan to use their coffee and espresso for our ice cream, but I am not quite sure which blend we will use yet, but I am leaning towards the Corsica. We are still figuring that out. We will also be making an espresso bean brittle with their Nizza espresso beans, which will be sold at our bakery.
LC: What’s your favorite thing to get at our café?
MT: Well, I am usually an espresso or dark coffee drinker. Both are delicious. But just as important, I love how the cafe staff is both friendly and knowledgeable. I think it’s sometimes hard to find a coffee company that has both, but La Colombe truly does.